If you start talking Oklahoma and Final Four, inevitably the name Hollis Price is going to come up. One of the key members to the Sooners run in 2002, Price is easily one of the most popular players in the history of the program.
Price, now the director of player development at the University of Houston, spoke with Sooners Illustrated about the 2002 run, the 2016 Sooners, Buddy Hield and a whole lot more.
What were the emotions going through you last Saturday?
I was excited. Watching the game, I started live tweeting as I’ve started to get into Twitter. I was watching the game and you could see how much fun they were having and the joy they were having. The last two games – they made it seem pretty easy. It wasn’t, but all of that came from preparation. It paid off.
Bring you back to 2002 feelings?
It did. Watching Buddy and watching Jordan (Woodard) and (Isaiah) Cousins and all of those guys. It was good. Our team was similar to this team. When I watch those guys play defense, they can switch 1-4. We switched like that, too, everybody could guard whoever. This team can shoot a lot better than we could, I’ll say that.
Ever get to know Buddy Hield?
I’ve met him twice. Once in Oklahoma for Legends weekends and then met him his freshman season at Texas when he was hurt. I’ve never seen him play. Watching him play, he’s a bigger, stronger, more athletic and better shooter than I was. He reminds me of myself in the passion and joy he brings to the game. He’s a better me.
How much pride do you and the guys from that 2002 squad have?
It shows how hard it is to make it to the Final Four. Oklahoma has had so many other good teams. Blake’s (Griffin) teams were good. Made it to the Elite Eight. Even last year was pretty good but lost to Michigan State. There’s a lot of pride. Being in the Final Four is not good enough, though. We’ve yet to get a national championship at Oklahoma. Hopefully that changes.
So many times the goal is Final Four. What was the mindset in 2002?
Beginning of the year was about winning the national championship. We never said Final Four. We knew we could play with anybody that year.
What’s different about Final Four week?
You’re doing all those kinds of media obligations. That was something that was completely different. It can make your head turn. You have to be able to channel yourself into just focusing and being in the moment. It’s an experience only a few guys can share.
What’s your one piece of advice for OU’s guys this week?
My advice would be embrace the moment. You don’t get too many chances to say you’re a participant in the Final Four. I talked to Coach (Kelvin) Sampson when we were two years removed from the Final Four, wish we wouldn’t have stayed so far away from the stadium. We stayed far away to be away from the atmosphere. The backdrop of the arena is something you’ve never seen, too, because you’re playing in a football stadium. Stay humble, stay focused.
Did you know Lon Kruger could get the program back to these heights?
I knew the guys they had, just watching Buddy, he was going to have a chance to turn the program around. Coach Kruger has done a great job everywhere he’s been around. They’ve put in a lot of hard work and sometimes you have to have some luck, too, to reach this point. Buddy and the guys have worked their tails off.
Talked a lot about the past, but how are things for you at Houston?
It’s good. Here with Coach Sampson again now at the University of Houston. We’re trying to turn the program around. We made the NIT this year. Next year we’re trying to make it to the tournament. It’s great to be back with Coach and to listen and learn and be on the other side of things.
Has the football success with Tom Herman carried over with basketball?
In some ways when the football team is doing good, the other athletes see it as a challenge to step up their game. You saw that happen at OU, too. It’s a good kind of pressure. It’s weird, of course, because the first game of the season is Houston and OU this year. I might have to have two hats in my pocket (laughs). When I’m by OU people, hurry up and put an OU hat on. And then put the Houston hat when I’m going back to Houston. It should be fun.
How different is Kelvin Sampson now than when you played for him?
With Coach being in the NBA, he saw a different style of play in the NBA. The stuff we run now – we space the floor a lot like the NBA does. He’s a wiser coach because he knows how hard they have to work and how hard he has to push them and when to let off of those guys. That’s the sign of a good coach – can change his coaching style to fit today’s player.
You watching the Sooners this weekend?
Hopefully I can go to the game. I want to go in person so that’s what I would like to do. If not, I’ll watch it on TV like everybody else. Praying for those guys to be at their best.